Instead of asking us to passively agree with the rabbis, oral law engages the intellect in concrete problems of logic and interpretation
Daf Yomi: Could Judaism ever go back to now-alien-seeming rituals from before the destruction of the Temple?
One of many ancient local customs analyzed in this week’s Talmud study is the habit of separating Jews from gentiles
Most American Jews have effectively cast off rabbinic guidance. Would the Talmud’s rabbis have respected us for it, or disdained us?
By imbuing even the most mundane things—like vinegar—with importance, the rabbis find proof of sacred history
Daf Yomi: Much of the rabbinical ingenuity is devoted to figuring out how to draw clear lines in murky situations
Daf Yomi: A closer look at the Holy of Holies provides a fascinating illustration of how the rabbis of the Talmud read the Bible
Daf Yomi: For the rabbis, trivial—even outdated or immaterial—problems can provide the best thought experiments
Daf Yomi: For generations, Talmudic training has meant exercising the mind in logical thinking, not just learning laws
Long after the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed, Talmudic rabbis kept it alive in their imaginations, and ours
Daf Yomi: The rabbis examined practical dimensions of deep questions, including those raised around saliva, urine, and sex
Daf Yomi: Our literary critic ambles over rooftops, ruins, and ships, in search of meaning in Jewish commentary
Daf Yomi: Our literary critic discovers more rules on male authority, Shabbat meals, and how the rabbis thought about wealth
The Talmudic rabbis saw the world as a wedding—a place of charity and pleasures to be enjoyed while it lasts
Through reasoning, the rabbis brought all of natural creation under the rule of law
The Talmud’s pragmatism and wonder meet in a technical problem about the height of a boundary line
By avoiding authoritative rulings in favor of nuanced debate with the ideas of the past, the Oral Law refuses to simplify
As our Talmud column returns, debates over Oral Law range from the existential to the mundane
The range of problems and the variety of answers in the study of Oral Law lead to new pathways of reasoning
To overcome fated lives, the Talmud’s rabbis argued, perform virtuous acts according to Torah
Rabbis left enforcement of their Talmudic decrees to communal standards and voluntary commitment
When is a tent just a tent and not like a bed or a hat? To update Jewish laws, the rabbis reasoned by analogy.
You wouldn’t expect that the tractate on Shabbat would be the place to discuss circumcision. You’d be wrong.
Talmudic rabbis debate the reach of permissions and prohibitions, and Jews are rewarded for virtuous behavior
In this week’s page of Talmud, the rabbis show their skill at making distinctions between obligation and acting out
In order to understand Sabbath rules, the rabbis show, one must imagine exactly what work the Israelites did
This week, the rabbis ask if two half-sins equal a whole one. In what part of a sin is sinfulness located?
This week, the Talmud’s rabbis explore possible holy day violations to determine the nature of the sinner
In this week’s Talmud study, Jewishness is not just moral and theological matters. It is a way of life.
This week, Talmudic rabbis seek righteousness in the Bible’s tales of vice, weakness, and human frailty